HCS Meeting, July 16, 2011: Why Bother with a Board? Why Bother with Elections?

In its first Saturday meeting ever, the HCS Board approved the new superintendent’s plan for alleviating overcrowding at Providence Middle by bussing the sixth grade class to under-populated Williams Middle.

Before I get to whether this plan is good or bad, I think that the manner in which the change was made sets a poor precedent. Yes, the start of school is just a few weeks away, and so that is an argument for getting this proposal on the table before the next regular meeting on July 21. But by calling a special meeting, the Board could also justify not taking any citizen comments or questions. So this radical change has been made without any community input whatsoever.

This is how I thought things worked: the community elects Board members. The Board takes into account community preferences and objections in the policies it makes and in approving or disapproving recommendations by the superintendent.

Not a single one of the five Board members — Laurie McCaulley, David Blair, Alta Morrison, Topper Birney, Jennie Robinson — seemed to care in the slightest that by motioning to accept the Superintendent’s proposal and seconding said motion that he or she was advocating indifference to the Board’s constituents.

Don’t come around in 2012 and 2014 when your terms are up claiming that you care what we the people think. You showed us today how much you care.

Now, about the transfer itself. It makes sense, in theory, to move the Providence middle schoolers to Williams. In practice I think it will be wretched. The plan, to the extent made public, is for the sixth graders who take the bus to Providence to continue to do so, only once they arrive at Providence, they are to board a second bus for the trip to Williams, about 25 minutes away. This will mean that some of them will be boarding their first bus at 6:00 am.

This is outrageous. It was bad enough when the 6:00 am routes were first declared — not discussed, mind you — at the last regular meeting, but then there was at least the claim that the kids who got to school at  6:45 or so would get breakfast and tutoring.

The Providence sixth graders aren’t going to get that. They are going to get to spend up to 1 hour and 45 minutes on the bus twice a day: 3.5 hours of doing nothing, and 7 of schooling, if they can stay awake that long.

Why must all schools start at the same time? Don’t make the Providence kids who have to spend 3.5 hours on the bus get up at 5 for the “privilege” of doing so. Keep their bus schedules as they were last year, and start Williams at 8:30. The Providence kids are already getting the worst deal with the two-bus routine. Or — here’s a radical idea — ask the kids’ parents what they think.

 

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